Hands on with Parrot's Zik 2.0 Bluetooth headphones
Around two years after the release of its Zik headphones, Parrot is again looking to prick up the ears of audiophiles after a wireless listening solution. The Zik 2.0 headphones are to be released next week, and after a little hands on time with its new set of cans, our early observations are they provide an impressive listening experience.
The Zik 2.0's are leaner than their predecessor, weighing around 17 percent less at 270 g (9.5 oz). They connect with iOS and Android devices over Bluetooth 3.0 rather than Bluetooth LE, which the rep tells us gives them everything they need to transmit audio while maximizing battery life. Windows 8.1 support won't be available at launch, though it is reportedly on the way.
Of its many functions, the noise-canceling capability is probably the Zik 2.0's headline feature. It is delivered through two patented features. The first, dubbed adaptive active noise control, uses six of the eight microphones built into the headphones to identify particular background noise. An algorithm then generates sound waves to counter this, resulting in what Parrot says is a noise reduction of up to 30 decibels.
The second is so-called Street Mode, which enables user control over the level of noise cancellation, while also capturing surrounding noise to circulate it back through the headphones. You know when the isolating effect of headphones has you overcompensating in speaking volume and screaming at the person right next to you? This feature is designed to keep the wearer a little more in touch with reality.
Two other microphones are used for the hands-free functionality. The Zik 2.0s are compatible with Siri and Google Voice, giving you access to your phone without needing to pull it out of your pocket.
As for interacting with the headphones, Parrot has focused on making this as effortless as possible. It retains the capacitive touch panel of the original version on the right earpiece, allowing you to control volume and skip tracks by swiping up, down, left and right. A pressure sensor stitched into the inside of the earpiece detects when the headphones are being worn, automatically playing music when they are in place, and pausing when they are not.
When diving into the app it becomes pretty clear just how much effort Parrot has put into the Zik 2.0s. As mentioned above, its noise-canceling feature allows the user to control exactly how much of the surrounding noise is eliminated.
The equalizer takes the somewhat daunting idea of manipulating different frequencies and presents it in an easy to use interface. Dragging an orange dot around the screen can emphasize the vocals, turn up the bass or give your music a more poppy feel. Parrot's Concert Hall is another neat little feature. It is designed to mimic different listening environments, such as a silent room or a jazz hall, while also allowing user control over the direction the sound is coming from.
Battery life will vary substantially, depending on how you use the headphones. Flight Mode is said to last 18 hours and enables the adaptive noise control, though it relies on line-in audio. Eco Mode enables additional features but cuts uptime to seven hours, while Normal Mode using Bluetooth to transmit the audio should be good for six hours of listening.
The official release date for the Zik 2.0's is November 12. They will be priced at US$400 in the US and AUD$500 in Australia. It's a little early to tell whether they are worth the investment given the limited time we had with them, but you can check back for our full review in the coming weeks.